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Sunday, October 14, 2007

I heard it online. . . .

An online friend recently commented about how much "drama" some folks choose to share on the Internet, which reminded me of this piece written for another project.

“Did you see what Suzie asked us to pray for? I had no idea Dave was seeing someone else.”

“Yeah, imagine how bad she must feel. Poor Suzie, you know just the other day I heard she was going for a make-over at the mall. Do you think she knew about it all along?”

Sound like high-school to you? We all remember passing notes, writing in “slam” books and talking by phone long into the night with friends. The conversation above could have come from teenagers, from an adult conversation, or from another, newer source of gossip: the online prayer request list. Whether or not prayers were offered up for Suzie, or for our own classmates back then, the mature thing to do would be to ignore gossip.

I belong to a wide variety of online groups, writing organizations, women’s health groups and active Christian fellowships. What they have in common is that they all host prayer request lists; everything is prayed over, from the most simple need to find lost car keys to the most pressing health concerns.

On occasion someone will post a request for their failing marriage, sometimes revealing far too much personal information. Why do we find ourselves intrigued by these human dramas? Because their stories are compelling. Because of our human nature, urging us to listen to “dirt” on others. How can we avoid being entertained by the misery of others? Perhaps we have to turn to our spiritual nature. Get right to the prayers than make a concerted effort to forget, and not repeat, the details. As I once heard on the show “Dharma and Greg,” you simply pray about it, then “put it in a bubble and blow it away.”

The moment you share the information, even with a friend who may have advice, it becomes gossip. Think back to the last time you asked for prayer. Mine had to do with a particular doctor’s visit, and was not something I’d want shared all over the Internet. To be honest, I really didn’t want to share it with the members of the group, but I coveted their prayers for the outcome. I must work under the assumption others feel the same way, so I offer up a prayer for their situation and let the names and specifics go. I also keep in mind all the blessings I have, and the fact that my life could change at any moment. Every woman on that prayer list is important, and I want to treat her how I’d want to be treated. I guess it falls back to the Golden Rule, summed up so nicely in James 2:8: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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